As Ilja Stephan writes in her informative booklet note to this exquisite new release from French period instrument ensemble L’Arpeggiata, Francesco Cavalli “rode the crest of Venetian opera’s wave”. This full-time church musician composed 40 operas on the side and made a fortune in the process (though a prudent marriage to a rich widow also helped).
The programme offers up a selection of arias and instrumental works from six Cavalli’s works – L’Ormindo, Il Giasone, La Rosinda, L’Artemisia, La Didone, L’Eliogabalo and the famous La Calisto – plus instrumental works by contemporaries Kapsperger and Falconieri. As Stephan points out, “the poetic text was a literary work of art in its own right” and Cavalli was lucky to have the talents of such masters as Giovanni Francesco Busenello (who furnished Monteverdi with the libretto for L’Incoronazione di Poppea).
In her usual imaginative fashion, Christina Pluhar, directing from harp or theorbo, has filled out the skeletal scores by employing a rich array of instruments including lutes, harps, psalteries, percussion and a harpsichord and chamber organ. And if sopranos Nuria Rial and Hana Blažíková dazzle with their pure, sensuous tones and expressive, lightly virtuosic declamations, recriminations and laments, cornetto player Doron David Sherwin is at least equally persuasive.